Compare the prices
The prices of the same model fluctuate regularly from one retailer to another. While manufacturers typically only sell their phones at the recommended retail price, third-party retailers may mark them down based on stock levels and age, so shop around and check several price comparison tools such as Google Shopping, Kelkoo, PriceRunner or Price Spy.
Beware of offers that seem particularly cheap as they may not be UK models or may not be sold from the UK, which may impact warranty or after-sales service.
Compare contract or outright offers
Paying for a phone up front is usually the cheapest way to own it long term, but not always. Newly released models may be less expensive if purchased under a contract with a telephone company, especially if it is an agreement or if it includes other services, such as than Spotify or Netflix, at a reduced price.
It’s worth doing the math based on the total cost over the life of the plan versus the cost of the phone, plus that of an equivalent, cheaper, SIM-only offer. Keep in mind that if you break the phone, you will continue to pay for it every month until the end of your contract.
It is the right time
Buying a phone at the right time of year can mean big savings. Bargains can usually be had during traditional sales such as Black Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day, around Easter and during the back-to-school period as September approaches.
But individual manufacturers also offer discounts on their smartphones at different times depending on their annual release cycles of new devices. Some manufacturers, including Samsung and Google, are offering discounts and freebies with very early pre-orders for their new phones before they’re released, which can be worth it.
Samsung typically launches its high-end S-series smartphones in January, which are then discounted in summer sales. Apple’s iPhones are rarely heavily discounted, but tend to be cheapest in August ahead of a new version’s release in September, with savings of up to £150 depending on model, according to data from price tracking site CamelCamelCamel.
Swap or sell your old
Trading in your old phone is a great way to recover some of its value or get a discount on a new model. Apple and Samsung are offering up to £470 off their new phones and Google up to £676 depending on the model, brand and condition of the phone you trade in.
Alternatively, you can sell your phone to a refurbisher for cash. There are a number of retailers that buy old technology including phones on the high street and online including CeX, MusicMagpie, Envirofone and many more. Mobile operators including EE, Giffgaff, O2, Three, Vodafone and others are also buying used phones, as are Carphone Warehouse and other phone retailers.
Comparison sites can help you find the best price. They include SellMyMobile, Compare and Recycle, and Compare My Mobile. And like buying a new phone, timing is important for the trade-in if you want to maximize your return.
“We expect that across the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 lineup, the price will depreciate by around 22% by the launch of a new model in October 2022,” says Denise Timmis, Envirofone brand manager. . “That means trade-in values up to £157 less for the iPhone 13 Pro Max and up to £125 for the iPhone 12 Pro.”
If your phone is in good shape and you’re willing to put in some work, you could make more money by selling it privately on eBay or other marketplaces. Check recently sold prices on sites to see how much similar phones cost.
It’s not only better for the planet, it can also be great for your wallet. Recent data from Giffgaff showed that you can save around 50kg carbon and £200 on average by buying refurbished compared to new. While the biggest deals can be had on older devices, the best recent models can often be found refurbished by manufacturers and third parties around six months after release. They usually cost £50-100 less than the RRP.
“At a time when many people are really feeling the rising cost of living, refurbished appliances can be a great option,” says Ash Schofield, chief executive of Giffgaff. “You still get that new phone feel, without breaking the bank. Our research shows that while a number of people consider refurbishing technology a viable option, a number still don’t take advantage of the savings.
There are many places to buy refurbished models. Those direct from the manufacturer are often the best being fully refurbished to like-new standards, but most phone or tech stores, mobile carriers and specialist refurbishers sell models in varying conditions and prices, from almost new to worn but still functional.
Choose older models with long software support
The newer models are the most expensive, so buying a phone a year or two old, new or refurbished, can save you a bundle – but only if you pick the right model.
Unfortunately, not all manufacturers provide long-lasting software support for their smartphones. Many provide as little as two or three years of updates from a handset’s release date. Regular security updates are crucial for safe smartphone use, so once a model is no longer supported, you should stop using it.
Only Apple and Samsung provide up to five or more years of software support for their recent smartphones, which makes their older models like the iPhone 11 or Galaxy S20 still worth buying. Google recently pledged to support its Pixel phones for five years, but only starting with this year’s Pixel 6.
While high-end phones are the most exciting, mid-range smartphones have improved dramatically in recent years and can be had for much less. However, not all mid-range phones are built equally, and many lack long-term software support.
Highlights include Apple’s iPhone SE (£470) and Samsung’s Galaxy A series (from £129), which get four to seven years of software support depending on the model.